The worlds of comic books and young-adult fiction have proven to be fertile ground for Hollywood in recent years, and thankfully, filmmakers and studios finally seem to be getting these adaptations right more often than they're getting them oh so wrong. And whether you're a geek for graphic novels or for YA fare, we're nearing the point when the merest mention of a potential adaptation of your favorite project is no longer reason to cringe. (Not as much as we once did, at least.)
So what's holding video games back?
Already one of the most – if not the most – lucrative corners of the entertainment industry, video games are also in the midst of a golden age of storytelling, with many games more akin to an interactive movie than the button-mashing platform adventures of the past. And here's the thing: the stories driving some of these games are on par with the best stuff coming out of Hollywood.
Packed thick with drama, clever plot twists, loads of character development, and compelling narratives capable of keeping players attached to their controller for hours upon hours, many of the most popular games of recent years are as much a cinematic experience as a user-controlled adventure – making it all the more surprising that they haven't found their way to the big screen yet.
Take, for example, these three games:
Originally optioned by Universal back in 2008, a BioShock movie seemed like a certainty almost as soon as this eerie, award-winning underwater adventure hit shelves. The game casts the player as Jack, the lone survivor of an airplane crash who washes ashore on a strange island, only to discover that the nearby lighthouse holds the entranceway to a vast, submerged city. Formerly an underwater utopia of industrial and scientific progress, the city of Rapture is now filled with all manner of deranged inhabitants – including the creepy, needle-wielding “Little Sisters” and their protectors, the brutish “Big Daddies.” As Jack tries to survive long enough to find a way home, he gets caught up in a mystery that may hold some clues to his own shadowy past.
The breathtaking visual elements of the BioShock environment first caught the attention of gamers, and a good adaptation of this game would do well to invest heavily in the moody world of Rapture – something that both BioShock developer Ken Levine and the original director attached to the project, Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean), indicated at various points during the adaptation's time in limbo. When the studio requested a dramatically lower budget and a downgrade from the original R rating, Verbinski bailed on the project and Levine subsequently “killed” it earlier this year.
Still, the game's dark, edgy narrative seems ready-made for adaptation, and with more than four million copies of the game sold in its first three years on the market, there's reason to believe the game is as much a household name as any movie released in that same period. The fact that it spawned two sequels (okay, one official sequel and one spiritual sequel) doesn't hurt, either.
Oh, and given how terrifying an encounter with a Big Daddy was in the game, just imagine what such a scene would look like on the big screen. That alone would likely be worth the price of admission.
An Indiana Jones-style adventure for the modern age, the Uncharted games chronicle the globe-spanning travels of Nathan Drake, a smooth-talking treasure hunter who never met a historical mystery he didn't want to investigate – even if it puts him in the bad guys' crosshairs. Less preachy than The Da Vinci Code and filled with the sort of snappy dialogue, character development and humor that would feel right at home in a Joss Whedon project, Uncharted is an action movie waiting to happen that combines old-school adventure with modern cinematic techniques and pacing.
Not surprisingly, an adaptation of Uncharted was originally in development way back in 2008, with David O' Russell (The Fighter) attached to direct and Mark Wahlberg, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci starring in the film. Since then, however, Russell dropped out of the project, only to be replaced by Neil Burger (Limitless), who then left the project himself in 2012. A new director has yet to be announced, leaving the project in limbo.
It's a little difficult to determine what the obstacle is with this one, as there's the potential for a brand-new franchise here that should hit all of the usual summer blockbuster targets. Lighthearted adventure? Check. Attractive hero who's a mix of James Bond and Indiana Jones? Check. Humor that doesn't go over anyone's head? Check. Gunfights and explosions? Checkity-Check. Cool, location-based set pieces? Definitely check.
So why hasn't this movie been made yet?
Grand Theft Auto
Mix one part Drive with one part The Transporter, add a splash of Taken, and pour over your favorite crime noir for the perfect Grand Theft Auto movie recipe. While the wildly successful game franchise is best known for being a sprawling, open-world adventure in which the main character robs, cheats and kills his way to the top of the local crime business, the narrative that drives Grand Theft Auto III and its successors is surprisingly linear – and provides a nice foundation for taking each game from the console to the big screen.
But the best part? A studio wouldn't actually need to bring the entire cast back for each subsequent film in the franchise. If a Grand Theft Auto movie franchise followed suit with the games, it would simply need to bring back one or two locations in each film, as well as provide a cameo for some supporting characters that serve to connect the films. Each movie could be a new, stand-alone crime story, but still derive all of the benefits from the Grand Theft Auto series tag.
Heck, the biggest obstacle to a Grand Theft Auto movie might be the fact that there's already a 1977 film with the same name (written by, directed by and starring Ron Howard). Still, that's what subtitles are for (“Grand Theft Auto: Origins”), and let's be honest: a good film about a guy who just can't seem to stop being bad, set in Liberty City, is really all that's necessary for this project to earn fans' approval.
Now, if only a studio realized that...
Also in the “Ready-Made Movie” List: Why Assassin's Creed, Dead Space and Alan Wake haven't been made into movies yet, I may never understand.
Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, IFC.com, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV, and is still not quite sure how he ended up writing (and talking) about comics, video games, and movies for a living. His personal blog can be found at MindPollution.org, and you can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.